Missourians head to Washington to call for a House vote on the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act expires this summer. The initial bill passed the Senate earlier this year but has yet to be considered in the House. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has been pushing to expand and extend the initiative and has tried to add it as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill.”If we’re not going to get amendment votes, I’m not going to help them speed this along,” Hawley told reporters about the FAA legislation.The bill is just one effort that residents in Missouri say, would help those sickened from toxic sites in the region.”There’s no windfall for anybody,” Former Missouri Resident Kim Visintine said. “This is not, ‘we’re just giving money to these citizens, and they’re going to have all this random money to spend.’ A lot of these medical bills… it’s a drop in the bucket.”AMERICANS EXPOSED TO NUCLEAR RADIATION BY GOVERNMENT WOULD BE COMPENSATED UNDER APPROVED SENATE BILLVisintine grew up near Coldwater Creek in North County St. Louis. The area is part of a superfund site where toxic waste has been found, years after the city’s nuclear program ended. Visintine says she frequently visited the creek as a child and now believes the toxins are to blame for illnesses in the region. Those sickened include someone very close to her.”We were told that he was one in one million. That children just don’t get this cancer,” Visintine said.  Her son, Zach, had his first neurosurgery within a week. He started chemo soon after. Visintine and her husband consulted specialists in an effort to cure the rare cancer.”Even with me having full coverage of insurance and my husband having full coverage, our out-of-pocket costs for out of network and specialists after a year of treatment was $100,000,” Visintine said.Zach lost his battle with cancer in 2006. As his parents began to process the loss, they also began to ask why this may have happened.  LAWMAKERS PUSH TO RENEW, EXPAND RADIATION EXPOSURE COMPENSATION ACT”It wasn’t until years later, with social media, that I reconnected with a lot of grade school friends and friends that I grew up with in the neighborhood,” Visintine said.She started the group Coldwater Creek Just the Facts Please and began mapping reports of illnesses in the region.”All these illnesses are around the creek. And this is our common denominator, common link,” Visintine said.Visintine and others she met through social media, have fought for government or legal compensation over the years. But efforts for government or legal compensation have faced hurdles and limitations.”Even if we get all this compensation, we will never qualify. Because I was exposed, hence his disease. By the time he was born, I was living out of the zip code that’s affected,” Visintine said.Representative Cori Bush, D-Mo., said people from all over the country could be impacted.MORE PEOPLE EXPOSED TO MANHATTAN PROJECT CHEMICALS DESERVE COMPENSATION, ADVOCATES SAY”There are RECA claimants in all 50 states,” Bush said. “We are talking about legislation that impacts every single member of congress’ constituents.”The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act lists zip codes where payments would be allotted for those suffering from illnesses. However, Visintine and other advocates say, the impact of the bill would extend further than just individual assistance.”If it gives somebody a chance to just breathe and pay their bills, great. I think that’s wonderful. But beyond the restitution, if we are part of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, that opens us up to community grants and funding for the whole area,” Visintine explained. “The grants and funding will allow for screening clinics, medical screening clinics. And it will allow community organizations to apply for federal grants for education.”Members of Congress from impacted communities say the legislation has bipartisan support.”When you have Cori Bush and Josh Hawley on the same side, fighting for the same thing for our Missourians, you need to listen,” Bush said.Hawley said President Joe Biden plans to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.OFFICIALS KNEW MANHATTAN PROJECT CHEMICALS DISPOSED IMPROPERLY AT MISSOURI SITES, DOCUMENTS REVEAL”All eyes are on the House now. The ball is in their court. I have spoken to Speaker Johnson about this. I’ve talked to anybody and everybody who will listen and some who won’t listen, and told him that the time is of the essence,” Hawley said.Dawn Chapman, who lives near a toxic landfill in St. Louis, was Hawley’s guest for this year’s State of the Union address. She has called for compensation over the years through her group, Just Moms STL.”We’re pushing with everything we have. Because the truth is, it’s too late for us. It’s too late for me. It’s too late for my kids,” Chapman said.During her time in Washington, she met with other lawmakers in an effort to gain support for the legislation.”We’ve been able to see what’s happened in other communities, so we know what we can ask for,” Chapman said.Members from communities linked to radiation exposure were in Washington Thursday, to call on House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to hold a vote on the legislation.Johnson’s office tells Fox News, the legislation would cost approximately $60 billion and expands on a program that should be winding down.”The Speaker understands and appreciates Senator Hawley’s position and is working closely with interested members and stakeholders to chart a path forward for the House,” A Johnson spokesperson said.Chapman and Just Moms STL Co-founder Karen Nickel met with members of Speaker Johnson’s staff on Thursday. Nickel said after an hour and a half meeting, staffers were unaware of the scope of communities impacted by radiation linked to nuclear waste.”While we feel like we’ve educated so many people, there are still so many people that just don’t understand,” Nickel said.Hawley said the money should not be an issue.”This is an instance where the government is the one who has caused this harm,” Hawley said. “Right now, I’ll tell you who is paying for this. The American people are paying for it. The people of my state are paying for it, in some cases literally with their lives.”
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